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Senior Convocation Speaker Tells Students to Seek ‘Heartache and Joy’

May 14, 2015 – Georgetown’s 2015 Commencement Weekend began with more than 1,750 graduating seniors from all 50 states and 67 other nations gathering into McDonough Arena today for the university’s annual Senior Convocation.

The alumni speaker was William Garard Godwin (C’07), a 2010 University of Chicago Law School graduate who just received his master’s degree in religious studies from Chicago Theological Seminary.

Godwin is the author of the 2011 book Blue America’s God: Reflections on Faith and the Future of Progressive Politics.

“Learning more about what the world needs, its unfinished work, its new challenges, its dangers and shortcomings,” he told the students and their families, “has given me tremendous heartbreak yet unbreakable joy. If nothing in this world makes your heart ache and sets your mind and soul on fire to respond in some meaningful way, you have missed the wise words, the gift of Georgetown.”

Godwin now serves as director of external affairs at One Chance Illinois, a Chicago-based legislative advocacy nonprofit focused on advancing school reform initiatives. 

Enduring Gift

Georgetown Provost Robert Groves noted that the Class of 2015 have won numerous prestigious scholarships, including 10 Fulbright awards.

“We live in a world where stopping for a moment to reflect on one’s status is a rare event,” Groves said. “This convocation is a deliberate attempt to stop the noise of this transition in your lives. It asks you to look back on the years you spent here and also to look ahead, to consider the enduring gift that Georgetown will be in your lives.”

The graduating students also heard from their classmates, Citlalli Alvarez (C’15) and Alex O’Neill (C’15).

Unique Responsibility

A government and anthropology major, Alvarez served as president of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, as an Organizing Fellow with the university’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and conducted extensive anthropological research in justice and immigration. 

She also was featured in an episode of the Woodrow Wilson Forum’s “Young and Undocumented: The New American Story.”

“Our Georgetown education has given us the critical knowledge base from which to explore the needs and the demands of humanity,” Alvarez said. “Knowledge transcends borders, and it is up to us to engage the ideas from the pages of Charles Dickens to Maya Angelou. As Georgetown graduates we take on the responsibility to rebuild a more just commonweal and a more just world.”

Tipping Point

O’Neill, an environmental biology and anthropology major, received a David L. Boren Scholarship to study Nepali and Tibetan language in Nepal. During his time there, he created the first record of parasitic plants and discovered a previously unrecorded mistletoe species. His research soon will be published in the Journal of Ethnobotany and Ethnomedicine.

Calling students to help victims of the earthquake in Nepal, O’Neill said more than 35 animal and 370 plant species will be extinct in Nepal by 2100, and that many animals and plants will also become extinct in America.

“Whether or not you identify yourself as an environmentalist,” he said, “the environment will inevitably frame your story after Georgetown. We are at a tipping point. And we will have to choose what to save and what to compromise.”

Senior Gift

Before Georgetown President John J. DeGioia closed the ceremony by admitting the Class of 2015 into the ceremonies of commencement exercises, the class presented the university with a $146,475 gift, which will fund six scholarships.

“Your generosity demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to our university," DeGioia said, "to preserving the Georgetown experience that you inherited for future students and to sustaining the legacy of scholarship and service that has animated our community for generations. For this we are deeply grateful.”